Toulouse/Paris 2009

My neighbor Achmed (yes that really is his name) drove us to the airport where we checked in at the Air France booth. Actually we checked in online but we needed to then take our passports to the counter to get our boarding passes which just made me wonder why we checked in online. Our flight was on an Airbus A340 which I've liked in the past. In typical Airbus fashion I had excellent legroom (something about the way the seats are formed) and we had in flight entertainment on tiny little screens. The system worked well and gave us Movies, TV, travel channels and music. There were games but I didn't feel the need to explore. Even though I was tired from getting up at 4 I couldn't sleep. I do however, want to mention that the food on the plane was top notch. All airplane food up until now has been barely edible. I've gotten in the habit of just going to Burger King in the airport and taking it on with me. You know how much I detest fast food but truth be told it's a step above airplane food - a big step. The bread we go was better than we can get in the store at home and my beef braised in a balsamic sauce actually tasted good. Keep in mind we're not talking about 3 Michelin stars here so let's keep things in context. Also we got fed more food than we could eat and what blew me away completely is they were serving Champagne, white wine, red whine and variuos liqueurs free of charge! I'm used to AA charging $7 for a tiny bottle of something. They just kept on bringing the wine around and yes there was cheese in our meal as well. Afterwords they bought tea and coffee and to top it off we had dishes. The silverware wasn't metal of course but they went through the trouble of procuring metal colored plastic...

We arrived at what is possibly the worst run airport on the planet - CDG in Paris. I try to avoid CDG at all costs but when you're making a connection to another French city you don't have a lot o choice. I love France but sometimes you just have to shake your head. There's a train that connects the terminal buildings but for whatever reason we where shuttled from one section of the terminal 2 to another on a bus. I thought it was so we didn't have to go through immigration but the first thing we did on arriving the new section was exactly that. Then I thought it was to avoid having to exit the secure zone and re-enter but that was next. The security "pit" (for lack of a better word) looked a lot like a couple of rugby teams fighting over a twinky. Everyone thought they were going to miss their flight so they were waving their tickets in the air and shoving. Just about the time I've decided to forgive the Spanish for what they did to the American natives I end up in line next to them for something and my negativitiy grows. For a second I thought we were in China because I was going to have to fight to RETAIN my spot in line. They had no problem jumping from line to line in an attempt to get ahead of everyone else even to the point of walking past people who were going through the metal detectors. As you can imagine the security folks were not amused. Ironically we walked up to our gate about 1 minute after they got there and we maintained our dignity and probably avoided being made fun by bloggers.

Our flight to Toulouse (pronounced toulouza by the locals) was quick and painless. The Toulouse airport is small and welcomingly so. A quick bus ride into the city got us to where we thought we wanted to be. Hotel reservations in a city you don't know can be a liability so we walked around to a few that I had in mind and looked at them. We chose the Junior hotel because it's over a restaurant (I love those sounds of people clinking their glasses and conversing while having a meal) and it's right next to a giant church and not far from the capital.  That and it has free wifi. For France it's cheap at 80 Euros a night but after exchange rate we still get beat up pretty bad.

Toulouse is an odd one. This area was independent up until about 1300 when it was taken over by the French. Langedoc actually means The oc language which is the group that Catalan belongs to. Catalan is what people from Barcelona speak. Provencal also belongs to that group as well...

More later.


So it's official, Natalya and I are heading across the pond for a short outing in France. It's not the Le Grande Vacance that we normally take but after a long summer sitting at home wondering how everyone else does this we're getting a break.

It would be nice to take a week off before going on holiday just to get ready because there's a great deal of things to do. I always smile when people travel around the states and hire a travel agent to plan it becuase in the states if you have a map (or not) and a car you can just drive anywhere without a lot of thought. The culture doesn't change a whole lot, people still speak English and you can always pull over and ask for directions. If you're going to a foreign country you actually have to have some sort of idea how to do this. Say for instance if you leave the house without your passports you're going to pay a lot for your round trip plane tickets to nowhere. Thankfully the airport won't let you go very far without it anymore. Not that we'd ever leave the house without passports or in the process prove that you can drive from North Seattle to the airport, back to North Seattle to pick up said passports and then back to the airport in less than 90 minutes, I'm just saying that it could happen.

It always amazes me the people who spend zero time trying to figure out the time zone change. A lot of people just get on the plane, sleep when they're tired and work it out when they get there. I know this because I see them all the time sleeping on the metro steps with their faces as plastered against their suitcases and if you can picture it - a small amount of drool coming from the corner of their mouth. It's either that or they're from Albania looking for money to help their handicapped-underprivilieged-bother-that-was-in-the-war-who-is-missing-both-arms-a-leg-one-eye-and-a-toenail and needs food or he'll die. I actually can't tell these folks apart until they wake up at which time the Albanian chases you down the street with the most innocent look on their face ( complete with left eyebrow scrunched and pleading eyes). The tourist on the other hand climbs to their feet and drags their oversized suitcase(s) to the nearest Starbuck where they pay 5x as much for coffee as they would if they went to any of the 20,000 cafes in Paris. They don't seem to mind because it's burnt just like at home.

So to avoid jetlag you get a plane from the west coast at around noon which is about perfect. It's best if that plane touches down on the east coast somewhere too but it's not 100% necessary. Make sure you get up early - say at 4-5am, eat breakfast, pack you bags or repack them. Right before you leave the house (about 10am) eat lunch. When you get on the plane don't nap. You have to stay away for about the next 4.5 hrs so watch two movies, eat what they bring then cover your eyes with something, put in some noise canceling headphones and go to sleep. Because you got up a couple of hours before your norm and you've been up for 10 hrs you'll be tired. Sleep for as long as you possibly can and when you awake they'll give you breakfast. When the plan lands you walk out the door in sync with the local time and having virtually no jetlag. This works as I've done it many times.  If you fly out at night you're screwed because there's just no way to deal with the time zone change. No matter when you sleep (or not) it will be the wrong time. Coming back is harder but I have formulas for that as well.




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